Those Beds Aren’t Going to Prep Themselves..

Tim Ward here, Farm School Co-director since this past December and current manager of the field crop production here at the Grange Farm School site.

Planting time for the summer is almost here.  The “last frost date” (average) for the Grange Farm School main fields, in a frost-prone valley bottom of the Northern California coast range, is around May 21.  Since most of the summer crops are frost sensitive, our late spring plantings need to be protected and timed just right, or else we take a gamble.  Our methods this year, as we are short on row cover and other resources, will be a combination of these approaches, and utilizing recycled window cold frames to protect seedlings.  It is always tricky to make this season work, and especially during the farmer’s first year in a new place!

We are  transitioning the production in our vegetable production towards a no-till, very manual approach, with intensive planting density to maximize yields from production space, and with intensive labor required to make it happen.  We are attempting to mimic the method of the very successful Singing Frogs Farm in Sebastopol, Ca.  We are close to finishing prepping 1/3 of our 1-acre garden area manually in this way, and will plant it early next week.  We hope to finish this project with the help of volunteers at our Work Party Open House this coming Sunday May 3rd.  Hope to see you there!

The rest of our vegetable field, as well as our 1-acre experimental grain plot were roto-tilled yesterday.  We have to give many thanks to our gracious lessors and supporters Christ’s Church of the Golden Rule for the use of their tractor and tiller as well as a big thanks to Cold Creek Compost who donated the 46 tons of compost that will be spread on the fields this month.

Photo by Ree SlocumThe experimental grain plot is a 1-acre grow-out of millet in cooperation with Doug Mosel’s Mendocino Grain Project.  Millet is said to be a very drought tolerant summer grain.  We will grow four varieties and compare their performance.  The grain will processed for the sale of seed, for animal feed, and for human-grade food grain for the student programs of the farm school.  We will also be growing heirloom wheat and dry beans in addition to the diverse vegetables of the season.  We are looking forward to selling our produce at the local farmers markets in Ukiah and Willits, as well as to local schools and other businesses through the new Mendocino County Food Hub!  Thanks for everyone’s support in this exciting time.

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